How to Grow a Vineyard

Starting a vineyard is no small task, but is one that can reap big rewards. With careful planning and execution, you can ensure that your vineyard will provide abundant crops for many years.

Before You Plant

Select the Right Site:

There are many factors to consider when choosing the perfect place for your vineyard.

  • Climate – Take a close look at the high/low temperatures and frost-free periods for your area. Factors such as wind and altitude are also important to note. These factors help in determining where your vineyard will prosper.
  • Sunlight – Grapes require sun to grow well. Find an area that is away from trees and other shade-producing plants.
  • Soils – The quality of the soil in the area is another key factor. Consider the fertility, types of soils, drainage and the depth of the soil.
  • Water – This includes both the quality as well as water sources. How much water is available from wells, etc. in the area and what irrigation options are available?
  • Field Size – How large will your vineyard be? Determine this early on when you decide which grapes you plan to grow and how much room they will require.
  • Wineries – Ultimately, you’ll want to produce wine from your grapes. If you are not completing this yourself, how close is the nearest winery?
  • Other factors – Agricultural zoning and regulations, sources of power and cost of the land are other considerations that need to be thought out when choosing a place to start your vineyard.

How to Select Grapes:

There are four major types of grapes grown around the world:

  1. Vitis Vinifera
  2. Vitis Lubrusca,
  3. Hybrids of these two
  4. Vitis Rotoundifolia.

Research which type will grow best in your location and/or visit local vineyards to see what types of grapes grow well in your area.

Prepare the Soil:

  • Remove the top layer of dirt, including all weeds and roots, and discard.
  • Till the soil thoroughly to provide loose, workable ground for planting.

Planting Vines

What You Will Need:

  • Grapevine (with roots established)
  • Small shovel or spade
  • Trellis or grape arbor
  • Copper wire or string
  • Plastic mesh
  • Potting soil
  • Fertilizer (10-20-10)

How to Plant Grapes:

  1. Begin by marking the rows by making 3-4 inch grooves through the loosened soil.
  2. Next, place stakes where each grapevine will be planted. Space plants 6-8 feet apart.
  3. Dig a hole that is twice the size of the pot that your vines are planted in and slightly deeper.
  4. Mix potting soil with the original soil and place a small amount of the mixture into the hole.
  5. Water the bottom of the hole as well as the plant in the pot prior to planting.
  6. Place the grapevine into the hole and fill in with remaining soil mixture.
  7. Water regularly during dry conditions, but do not allow the plants to become water-logged as this can lead to root rot.
  8. Fertilize the vines twice each year around the base (at least six inches out), do not allow fertilizer to get too close or it may burn the plant. Water the area to release the fertilizer.
  9. Plants will begin to grow in the spring, if planted in the fall. If you are planting in the spring, you will see some growth, but most likely will not have grapes for another year or two.

Year Two:

  1. This year you want to begin training the vines where to grow. This is accomplished by tying them to the trellis or posts in the direction they should grow.
  2. When fruit begins to grow, add plastic mesh over the plants to prevent birds from eating them.

Pruning/Harvesting Grapes

Pruning your grapevines is the most important part of this ‘art.’ Pruning allows you to manage the plant, regulate the size of the crop and adjust the quality of the fruit.

What You Will Need:

  • Clippers / lopping shears

Learning When and How to Prune:

  1. The art of pruning is developed over time and is affected mostly by your desired outcome. Here are some pruning times, each with different outcomes:
    • Summer Pruning to Increase Fruit Growth: Trim back vines when they have exceeded 2-3 feet of growth. This directs the energy back into the fruit, rather than plant growth, making a sweeter, more productive crop.
    • Fall Pruning: These prunings are not recommended and should only be done if you are sure there will be no warm spells that would allow growth before winter. Typically it is best to wait and do a winter pruning.
    • Winter/Spring Pruning: Most plants are pruned in late winter to allow for new growth. The key to this is pruning early enough that new growth has not already begun and late enough that no new growth will form before a frost. If this happens, it will lead to freeze damage which is dangerous for your grapevines. It is often best to prune no more than one month before the last frost.
  2. Pruning is a detailed process, there are even books devoted to pruning grapevines. Here are some basic rules to get you started.
    • Lateral shoots (those growing to the side) are not fruitful and should be removed. Only keep these shoots if you need them to grow onto the trellis for support.
    • Prune new shoots way back the first few years to encourage growth of the main vine.
    • Keep the first 6-12 buds on the cane, these produce the fruit, and trim back the rest unless they are needed for trellis support.
    • Prune any brown or brittle buds as they have been winter damaged and need to be removed.
    • Prune away enough of the vine to allow plenty of air and sunlight to reach the fruit and vines.
  3. Harvest your grapes when the grape at the bottom of the bunch is sweet. If some of the grapes are not fully ripened, they can be ripened by setting in the sun for a day or two.

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  1. Lori OBrien/Buffalo Creek Wines says:

    We don’t have a tip but would like input regarding beginning vineyard in North Central Wyoming

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